Radford University’s accelerated MBA program is helping undergraduates jumpstart their dreams
When Jessie Quesenberry first heard she could take Master of Business Administration (MBA) courses as a college senior, she had little idea that doing so could help her reach her long-term goal of making the world a happier place through serving up gelato.
“Everyone is happy when they eat gelato,” Jessie insists. “Everyone.”
Coming from a family that is part Italian – on her mother’s side – Jessie knows firsthand the smile-inducing joy the creamy dessert can bring to people. Someday, after completing her MBA at Radford University, she plans to own a food truck that offers the delicious treat, as well as a host of other sweet and savory delectables.
Jessie is earning her master’s in business administration degree through the accelerated program offered by the University’s Davis College of Business and Economics. The program is open to all undergraduate students, regardless of major, with at least a 3.2 GPA, to get a head start on graduate courses. Students whose GPA meets requirements may take one to four MBA graduate courses during their undergraduate studies.
The program is helping Jessie get an early start on earning her MBA, and it is getting her a step closer to initiating sweet happiness among those around her.
Jessie discovered gelato when she was in high school and “became obsessed,” she admits. So much so, she wanted to share it with others, and that is when the idea of a gelato food truck whet her appetite for delving into entrepreneurship.
“It’s a way to be a social enterprise and give back to the community,” she says. “I want to bring joy to people’s lives.”
Initially, Jessie wondered if getting an MBA was necessary to become an entrepreneur, for “being my own boss,” she says. However, after enrolling in Radford’s MBA program, through the accelerated program as an undergraduate management major, she realized many of the concepts she was learning in class would be practical and beneficial to her long-term goal of preparing and selling tasty treats to the public.
“Learning in class to use software and to look at data is teaching me a lot about how that information is used to make better business decisions,” Jessie says.
Until enrolling in the AI class for managers this semester, “I never thought of how artificial intelligence and food trucks can work together,” Jessie says. “I’m learning a lot through research for the class about how artificial intelligence is being implemented to help owners of food trucks and restaurants, and how I can use that to give my future food truck business an edge.”
She and other students in the AI class are learning to code for artificial intelligence systems. Jessie sees herself someday creating an AI system that uses machine learning to utilize information from many sources – traffic, weather, school closings and more – to forecast the proper amounts of product she should prepare for her food truck on a particular day.
“You can never have too much education,” Jessie says, echoing words she heard from Associate Professor of Management Danylle Kunkel, Ph.D., not long ago. Kunkel, and other faculty members in the Davis College of Business and Economics, encouraged Jessie to begin working early on her MBA though the accelerated program.
“Wait, I can do that?” is the question Courtenay Kaplan asked MBA Director Gary Schirr, Ph.D., when he suggested she begin graduate work as a senior undergraduate.
“Dr. Schirr opened my eyes to how I could use my last year at Radford to get the most out of the resources here,” says the senior marketing major from Leesburg, who is scheduled to complete her undergraduate degree in May 2020.
In the accelerated program, courses automatically apply for undergraduate and graduate credit, subject to admission to the graduate program. A student with a 3.0 GPA in any major is eligible to take up to two MBA courses as a senior; a 3.2 GPA allows them to fully join the accelerated program and take up to four MBA classes as a senior.
Furthermore, if an accelerated student graduates with 3.5 overall GPA and maintains at least a 3.0 in the graduate courses taken in the accelerated program, they will be granted a waiver of the standardized test for MBA admission.
Courtenay feared that the time and effort she spends on the pitch as a goalkeeper for the Highlanders women’s soccer team might make graduate work impossible. However, the MBA program’s new trimodal delivery system, introduced in Fall 2019, makes classes more accessible to busy student athletes and others with demanding schedules.
Trimodal class delivery gives students an opportunity to access MBA courses through three methods: in the classroom on the Radford campus, synchronously online with that Radford class over the internet, or through viewing a 90-minute video recording of the session.
“When I get out of soccer practice, I usually go to class,” Courtenay says. “Or, if I get out of practice late, I can watch the recording while making dinner at home. I love the flexibility it offers.”
Before completing her undergraduate program and graduating in December 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, Jennifer Falconer, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, took graduate courses through the accelerated program and now is in year two of the MBA program. As an undergraduate, she completed two graduate courses, expediting the process of completing her MBA.
“It was wonderful to get started early, get my foot in the door in the program and see what the program was going to be like,” says Jennifer, who is also a student-athlete, a graduate assistant in the Davis College Dean’s Office, and was one of the first Radford students to enroll in the accelerated program. “Getting accustomed to what it’s like being in the MBA program as an undergraduate is a tremendous advantage and it lets you know early what it takes to be successful in the program.”
Jennifer has some advice for other students who are considering the program. “No. 1, just do it,” she says.” It helps immensely just getting in the program and seeing for yourself what it is like.”
And second, “Use your time in the program to connect with students who are further along in the program because they have a lot of valuable information and tools that have helped them and they are eager to help others and offer their advice.”
To learn more about the Davis College MBA accelerated program, contact MBA Program Director Gary Schirr at 540-831-6905 or Radfordmba@radford.edu.